Having the right guitar strings for your instrument, playing style, and genre is important to make sure you get the best sound possible (and don’t even get us started about changing them regularly!)
Here’s a basic guide to guitar strings:
80/20 bronze: The most popular kind of strings for acoustic guitars are 80/20 bronze. They’re made of 80 percent bronze and 20 percent zinc. They feature a bright tone – however, they wear out quickly and can be corroded by sweat.
Phosphor bronze: Made of 92 percent bronze, these strings last a lot longer than their 80/20 bronze counterparts. They also don’t corrode as easily, however, they don’t have as bright of a tone as the 80/20 strings. These are good if you don’t want to change your strings as often.
Classical acoustic guitar:
Nylon: This is commonly used for the top three strings of classical guitars. It’s usually paired with…
…Nylon and silver-plated copper: On the lower three strings of a classical guitar. The strings are made of a nylon core surrounded by metal.
Silk and steel: These strings are also popular for lower three strings on classical guitars. The silk and steel combination produces a mellow sound.
Catgut: Before the invention of modern strings, most guitar strings were catgut – made from the intestines of sheep and other animals. These are mostly obsolete now, but you can sometimes still find classical guitar strings made of catgut at boutique music stores.
Nickel-plated steel: These are the most-used type of strings for electric guitars. The nickel has a bright tone and doesn’t easily corrode.
Pure nickel: If you want a more vintage-sounding tone, these strings help cut the sharper high-end tones of electric guitars.
Stainless steel: The tone of stainless steel strings is very bright, but can be offset by humbucker pickups. They last longer than most other strings and don’t squeak as much when you run your fingers up and down the neck.
Types of Cores
Hex core: These strings have a six-sided core wire that prevents the outer wire from slipping. This provides consistent tones.
Round core: These have a round core wire, which gives a mellower sound, but can become out of tune easily.
Types of gauges
A guitar string’s “gauge” means its thickness. Gauge is measured as 1/1000th of an inch of the high “E” string. Gauge size can change the tone of guitars.
Extra-light: Extra-light strings are easy to play, but also easy to snap. They’re good for fingerpicking.
Light: These are more durable than extra-light, but still are easy to play.
Medium: Medium strings are popular for blues and rock music. They’re bendable and have a good tone.
Heavy: Heavy gauge strings are popular in jazz music, which requires little string-bending. Some rock and blues players also use this gauge and drop their tuning to make them easier to bend.